A Cornwall company has begun rebuilding the world’s lost ocean reefs with support from Innovate UK EDGE.
ARC Marine is on track to become a global leader in accelerating reef creation. Innovate UK EDGE has been helping the business realise these ambitions through reaching partners overseas, developing an effective IP strategy and raising finance.
By 2024, ARC Marine aims to be turning over £15 million, with major contracts in China, Europe and the US.
The innovation is in using stackable, ‘LEGO-like’ reef cubes that protect seabed infrastructure, such as cables, and give commercial and endangered species a place to hide, sleep, hunt and breed.
Tom Birbeck, CEO of ARC Marine, said: “Most reef restoration programmes are currently paid for by NGOs and charities.
“We wanted to create something much more scalable, so we targeted offshore oil platform and wind farm developers with an attractive proposition, both financially and ecologically.”
Global Business Innovation Programme
ARC Marine, which is based near Truro with a laboratory at Brixham in south Devon, joined Innovate UK’s Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP) in 2019, taking part in a trade visit to China.
Tom said: “For a small business to have training on the business culture, a travel budget, an itinerary of pitches, and introductions to the right people, all provided in-country by the GBIP, is just invaluable.
“You also tend to pitch alongside multinational corporations, which lends you instant credibility.”
ARC Marine is now looking to license a joint venture in-country.
Innovate UK EDGE also delivered an IP audit for ARC Marine, allowing Tom and the team to identify necessary IP and licensing opportunities, project costs over the next eight years and factor that into fund-raising.
Virtual maritime event
Innovate UK EDGE specialist Jayne Codling remains in regular contact, acting as a “critical friend and sounding board” throughout Covid while highlighting relevant funding, event and collaboration opportunities.
In 2020, she secured a speaker slot for Tom at MariMatch, a virtual maritime event that led to talks with offshore developers in France, a market that ARC Marine had not previously considered.
Later in the year, she guided ARC Marine on to Innovate UK’s SBRI Phase 1 competition. ARC Marine secured an initial £60,000 research contract, with the potential for R&D funding of up to £3 million in SBRI Phase 2.
Tom said: “If we’re successful in Phase 2, that would open doors to a pilot with the world’s largest offshore wind developers; the biggest project ARC Marine has been involved into date.”
Innovate UK EDGE was there for us at the beginning when we were a team of two, almost acting as a third member of staff. Now we’re a team of seven.